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Opinion: Women struggle to put themselves first

For women who have had to juggle careers, parenting, marriage expectations, community involvement, taking care of their own aging parents, being sleep deprived, there is not a lot of time left in the day to tend to themselves.
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Many women give so much to their families and others that they forget about themselves.

This article is dedicated to women, particularly mothers who have devoted their lives to others and have lost touch with themselves in the process. Men may wish to stop reading now, but I hope they don’t as they may have some renewed understanding and empathy for the mothers in their lives: their own and the mothers of their children. Many mothers take their job of parenting so seriously that in the process of taking care of everyone else, they forget about themselves.  These are the women for which I have the greatest compassion, and honour their commitment and sacrifice. 

“She let herself go and now she is old and bitter.”  I have heard this statement more times than I can count in my life and it wasn’t until I become middle aged myself that I understood how unfair a judgment it is.  Does anyone ever stop to think about the story behind letting ourselves go?  It is true that women often lose touch with their bodies, but why is this? 

Our society has a belief that to be a mother, you have to be selfless - translating into "less care for self than others," which often leads to "no care" for self.  Families will take as much as mothers will give and it is very important for mothers to know their limits and make time for themselves.

We have not been taught to value the mother. Women have to work harder and harder to prove their value, not only as mothers and wives but in the workplace. And for women who have had to juggle careers, parenting, marriage expectations, community involvement, taking care of their own aging parents, being sleep deprived, there is not a lot of time left in the day to tend to themselves. So they become disconnected from their own needs and often end up compromising their own health.

I have had comments made about my own weight gain, and even though I eat healthy and exercise regularly I am still lumped into the “she let herself go” category because I am about 20 pounds heavier than I was a few years ago.  In addition to being extremely busy with raising a teenager, being a civil servant, running a business, taking care of my own aging mother, running a farm and my household, I hit that time in my life where my hormones changed and my metabolism shut down. Well, maybe not shut down, but seriously slowed down.  I know that there is more that I can do to help my metabolism, such as regular weight training, but sometimes at the end of the day I have nothing left in me.  Menopause also caused severe inflammation in my life which ended up with me on meds like prednisone, that caused rapid weight gain.  I have been focussed on health my whole adult life (particularly nutrition) and become passionate about mindfulness and mental wellness about 25 years ago before ‘mindfulness’ was a common term so it is vitally important that I apply everything I have learned to my own state of health.   

In order to keep ourselves from becoming bitter, I think that women need to practice mindfulness in addition to physical and nutritional self care.  We need to feel that we are worthy of being taken care of ourselves.  We also really need to support each other, understand each other, defend rather than judge each other, cheer each other on, and find times to laugh with each other.

I think having a self-care journal is a good thing.  We can keep track of things we do every day that benefit just us women (physical activity, time alone, taking a walk, a bath, reading a book, gardening, any art outlet, prayer or meditation, learning a new skill, language or instrument, etc.). Gratitude is transformative for everyone but especially important for busy mothers.  Make the time – go within, find yourself and tend to your own internal garden.

Claire Nielsen is a health coach, author, public speaker and founder of www.elixirforlife.ca. The information provided in the above article is for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health and medical advice. Please consult a doctor or healthcare provider if you're seeking medical advice, diagnoses and/or treatment.

 

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